Pivoting is like the Energizer Bunny of entrepreneurship
"In some ways," Jessie Bishop writes, "I think pivoting is like the pink Energizer Bunny of entrepreneurship; it's what guarantees that your startup will never burn out."
Feeling low on energy? Maybe you just need to move in a new direction. In 2010, I was the CEO and co-founder of Prepay Nation, a company that made international mobile money transfers possible though technology integrated with top-up machines housed in brick-and-mortar establishments. It was my job to check in on how the top-up technology was functioning and how customers were responding so that I could steer the company in the right direction. Consequently, I spent a lot of time traveling between the many retail outlets where customers went to top-up their mobile accounts. Always on the go with my trusty Blackberry at my side, I started to realize, wouldn't it be easier on everybody if these transactions could be done between mobile devices, saving customers and me the trip to retail outlets?
Now, in 2012, I am the founder and CEO of Klink Mobile, a startup that specializes in peer-to-peer transfers of money and minutes between mobile devices worldwide. Increasing the efficiency and speed at which underbanked communities can complete financial transactions, Klink Mobile's technology better serves customers by better meeting their needs. In essence, I did what Startup Lessons Learned blogger Eric Ries famously dubbed "the pivot." I reoriented my business model in order to create a better product for my customers and a more profitable one for my investors. In the process, I reenergized my own outlook on the role of the startup founder. Let me explain.
As tech startup superstar Steve Blank acknowledges, pivoting can be a tough sell. Investors aren't always comfortable with a founder changing his or her mind about a business plan that seemed solid in the first place. Investors have, as the word suggests, already invested in it, both financially and emotionally. Even potential investors are sometimes put off by a founder when they learn that he or she has pivoted in the past. Pivoting can make a founder seem too willing to change his or her initial agenda and too easily distracted by new horizons. But according to Blank, pivoting is actually extremely valuable. The founder who pivots is the founder who is unafraid to listen to what customers are saying and respond by changing accordingly.
At Klink Mobile, the importance of listening and responding to our customers needs is built into the very foundation of who we are as an organization. And in that sense, my pivot from mobile top-up to mobile-to-mobile transfer has been more than what Reis calls a "customer problem pivot." It's also been a pivoting of my mission as a founder. I've pivoted from caring about my business plan to caring about my customer; from valuing my own ideas to valuing the feedback I get from the outside world; and from searching for stability to appreciating positive change. I still have my core values; I've just added flexibility to the list.
In some ways, I think pivoting is like the pink Energizer Bunny of entrepreneurship; it's what guarantees that your startup will never burn out. But instead of just going and going and going—sometimes, with a dead-end business model—pivoting helps your startup just keep getting better and better and better…
Credits: Photo of Energizer Bunny by Sweet Mustache via Flickr. Photo of Bishop courtesy of Bishop.
About the author: Jessica Bishop is the founder of Klink Mobile, a company that uses mobile-to-mobile technology to enable people from around the globe to share minutes and money instantly. Helping Klink Mobile to develop strong relationships with international mobile network operators across Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe, Jessica is, at heart, a proud Midwesterner, born and raised in the great state of Kansas. Catch up on her business travels at her new blog: jessiebishop.tumblr.com.
Follow Bishop on Twitter, @jessiebishop.